Weather forecasters are more confident Houston will see snowfall beginning Friday afternoon, but whether that snow sticks to the ground and accumulates remains a big question.
“I would say right now it could be anywhere from snow flurries to some accumulation,” said Robert Van Hoven, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, on Wednesday afternoon. “We might get some accumulation, there’s no doubt about that — but how much, it’s hard to say.”
Before then, officials are planning for possible freezing conditions that may arrive within 24 hours. Expect to see state highway crews begin spraying down heavily traveled roads today.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Friday beginning at 6 a.m. and extending through Saturday morning for some areas north, northwest and east of Houston, including Waller and Montgomery counties, Bryan, Huntsville and Beaumont.
However, this afternoon forecasters said computer models indicate the moisture that could become snow upon the arrival of Arctic air could slide further south, meaning Houston and the coast might be more likely to see the white stuff. However, as of noon they had not adjusted the winter storm watch area.
Houston-based Continental Airlines, which operates a major hub at Bush Intercontinental Airport, anticipated possible delays or cancellations by allowing customers traveling through Houston on Friday through Sunday to make a one-time date or time change to their tickets without penalty. Revised travel must begin by Dec. 20, however.
Today will be the calm before the storm with mostly sunny skies, a projected high of 56 degrees and winds at minimal levels of 5 mph. Clouds will begin rolling in tonight, with a 20 percent chance of rain after midnight and a low dipping to 42 degrees.
Friday will bring temperatures in the low 40s and a 50 percent chance of mixed precipitation between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to National Weather Service projections. The chances of snow will increase later Friday afternoon.
“It will start off as rain in the morning, then it will just gradually transition to all snow by late afternoon — that’s what we’re expecting,” National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Moreland said Wednesday.
Should snow arrive, it would be the earliest snowfall ever recorded here.
Temperatures will drop into the 30s, then fall below freezing level to a low in the upper 20s Friday night.
The weather service this morning issued a freeze warning starting noon Friday and lasting into Saturday morning. Some areas to the north could stay below 32 degrees for 10 to 12 hours, and only the immediate coastline is expected to escape a freeze.
Expect to see a 50 percent chance of snow Friday night before midnight, forecasters say.
This morning, state highway department crews are spraying a magnesium chloride solution on bridges and overpasses to prevent water accumulation from freezing, which could cause hazardous conditions for drivers.
Crews will spray down the Texas 6-U.S. 290 overpass in Waller County; the north end of Interstate 45 in Harris County continuing into Montgomery County; Texas 105 West, FM 1097, the Woodlands Parkway connector at Interstate 45 and U.S. 59 North in Montgomery County; the far west end of U.S. 290 in Harris County and the 610 East overpass at Interstate 10 East in Harris County.
If roads become icy Friday night, state highway crews will also roll out their sand trucks that night and Saturday morning. However, Mother Nature will likely melt away any snow because Saturday will bring sunny skies and a high near 50 degrees.
Less than an inch of snow fell in Dallas and Fort Worth Wednesday morning, but quickly melted away. That area also faces a chance of more snow tonight and Friday morning as temperatures there plummet, the Dallas Morning News reported.
El Paso had its first heavy snow of the year Tuesday. More than 5 inches of snow fell, but only half that amount stuck to the ground, while the other half melted away, the El Paso Times reported.